(Side note: The long-term emotional effects of the pandemic are often on my mind, and will probably continue to be a theme on the blog for a while. I don’t really re-read my posts that often, and can honestly not remember what was the last thing I wrote. And that’s good, because it won’t influence what I write now. In a year or two it will be interesting to come back, read the posts in chronological order and maybe see how things progressed for me. (Of course, this immediately makes me wish I wrote more on here!) Image: I saw this at the local Spar, and thought that we got much more than just 2 extra months this year! )
Anyway. You know, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had too much work to handle. I’ve always lived in this state of “Please can the world just stop turning for ONE MOMENT. I need to catch up“. I think a lot of us were silently screaming this in our heads, and of course the world delivered.
Suddenly, we got what we wanted. The outside world muted itself, it stopped spinning. It took a breather, and presumably tried to give us one too. But a funny thing happened, and not just to me but to most of my friends. As the outside noise subsided, our inner voices that we had been muting all along suddenly found their volume button. We could no longer silence our quiet demons by drowning ourselves in work, or relationships or late nights out with friends. Suddenly, it was just us, and our thoughts. And there was no place to hide.
Before I realised it was happening to me, I saw it happening to a lot of my friends. With a lot of them, it wasn’t pretty. Relationships began to crack, frustrations bubbled to the surface, questions that should have been asked years ago refused to be swept under the carpet any longer. People reacted to this overflow of inner emotion in different ways, but usually irrationally and with anger. There was, and continues to be, a lot of anger. It started out as attacks on governments, policy makers, even doctors, but soon shifted to closer to home. Husbands, boyfriends, children, bosses, career choices, all the lost time, the lost youth, missed opportunities, the rut and the grind. All the regret and the resentment and the sadness came gushing out. Can you identify?
Personally, for me, this process was not a bad thing, actually. Yes, I had to face some realities, and a lot of things bubbled to the surface and had to be dealt with. Luckily I had anticipated this, and made sure to see my psychologist (Her name is T, and her services were a 2020 gift to myself) weekly instead of monthly. I figured she would be the only adult person I’d see face to face in the same room for months, and I should make use of her services as much as I could. The most important thing I tried to do was to be kind to myself. This includes self-forgiveness too, by the way. I took some much needed time out, muted the email, pressed the pause button on a lot of projects and decided to deal with any personal stuff that needed to be dealt with. I can’t be all dramatic and say that all the garbage came gushing out and I had a cathartic experience, but my world did in fact become clearer. And I became more in-tune with myself, more forgiving and more open.
For sure, it paid off. T. told me last week that the pandemic was the best gift the universe could have given me, and I have to agree. Not only has it has given me time to reflect, but it has given me time to reflect alone. This is important. The lockdown would not have been nearly as successful for me if Craig was still here, because I would still not have had any space to be me, and the pandemic would have locked us into another 1-2 years (!!). So in that regard, Craig’s timing was perfect (still unforgivable, but perfect). Incidentally, the pandemic-imposed distance has also allowed us to connect on a different level while we redefine ourselves as “friends” and not “life-partners”, and that too has worked out well.
But the most remarkable thing about all of this was the speed with which my personal transformation happened. All I needed to do was open myself to it, and not resist. Once that decision had been made, and the shutting out of the outside was conveniently taken care of, the change was lightning fast. One of the reasons I realise this is because I tell T about my past week every week, and I therefore consciously become aware of the changes, and how quickly they occur. I accomplish more in a week than I could normally in a month. And mind you – this is not deliberate “working-on-myself” kind of stuff. No, this all happens in the background while I live out the quieter, gentler life during a pandemic, and have more opportunity to have meaningful inner-dialogs with myself.
I heard something eye-opening this past week. One of the members of a WhatsApp group I am on is a recovering alcoholic, who has been in and out of rehab a few times and by his own admission was in a near-fatal point in his life. He’s extremely fine now, but he was chatting to someone whose family member is a severe drug addict. And he said to her that, based on his own experience, this addict – given the right motivation and circumstances – could become an unrecognisable, fully functional citizen in less than 3 months. I found that remarkable. It’s a testament to our resilience, and it kind of confirms to me that maybe all we need is our own rehab experience every once in a while, and the pandemic-induced lockdown is just what the doctor (would have) prescribed.
So if you can, enjoy this time. Or at least put it to good use. No, you don’t have to learn another language, start daily yoga or clear out the attic. Just speak with yourself, and see what you learn. It will be good, I promise. Maybe not right now, but eventually.